GCC Think Act Tank cover 2019

What Is The Best Way of Taking Climate Action?

We are having a record warm January in Finland. No snow here in the South. Usually, we have temperatures up to more than -20 degrees Celsius in Southern Finland this time of the year. December was also warmer than average, with mostly rainfall. However, my heart is right now with Australia which is suffering from apocalyptic wildfires. If we just could send some of Finland’s rain to Australia now.

I am switching my electricity source from a combination of hydro, solar and wind to 100% wind energy. I found a service provider that is building onshore wind energy in Finland, and which is cooperating with for instance Google.

Why am I switching to 100% wind energy? Wind energy is by far the most environmentally friendly source of electricity/energy of all the options available on the energy market right now. 

Not only is wind power competitive in terms of pricing:

According to for instance the IHA (International Hydropower Association), onshore wind energy has by far the lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per kWh (kilowatt hour) among all energy sources, with only 11 gCO2 equivalent/kWh in comparison with for instance coal, the equivalent of which is 820 gCO2/kWh. That makes wind energy more than 74 times less polluting than coal.

Choosing energy and electricity sources with the lowest CO2 level possible is the single largest climate and environmental act that anyone can do right now. The effects of choosing clean energy are by far larger than any other climate action that can and should be taken.

Anne-Maria Yritys

 

Photo credit: Paul VanDerWerf

What is The Worldwide Geothermal Energy Potential?

Geothermal energy is heat generated and stored in the Earth. It is a fossil-free, environmentally friendly, renewable energy source that is as of today yet a rather untapped potential. The U.S. Department of Energy and the United States Geological Survey USGS estimate that if developed and utilized to its full potential, geothermal energy in the United States alone could provide the whole country with 10% of its required power. According to IRENA, some of the many benefits of geothermal energy also include the facts that geothermal energy can be found all around the world, and that it is available around the year, with less variations than for instance the generation of solar and wind energy. 

Not only is geothermal energy very low in greenhouse gas emissions, making it a valuable source of renewable energy, but with advanced technologies this yet rather untapped source of energy can also contribute to efficient wastewater treatment and management. According to IHA (2018), geothermal energy production has the third lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions after wind onshore and hydropower, with only 38 gCO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour. As a comparison, coal has 820 gCO2 equivalent/kWh. Thus, the development of geothermal energy sector can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

BP Global states that as a mature and well-established source of renewable energy, the overall potential of geothermal power in terms of electricity generation is higher than that of wind and solar energy. Despite its currently tiny share (one percent) of the total global energy mix, the role of geothermal energy is significant in a number of countries. Its power generation grew by 3.6% in 2016, and according to Renewable Energy World, geothermal energy is trending upwards. Orkustofnun, the National Energy Authority of Iceland, states that Iceland is a pioneer when it comes to the use of geothermal energy. Geothermal sources provide Iceland with 66% of the country’s primary energy usage. 

Moreover, for instance in Chile, financial institutions are investing in geothermal energy in order to support the country in reducing its emissions with a target to meet the demands of the Paris Agreement, but also to expand the country ́s energy portfolio. Between 2005 and 2015, the annual growth of geothermal power capacity worldwide averaged at 3.3%. Leading countries in terms of geothermal power capacity in 2016 were the United States, followed by the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, Kenya, Iceland, and Japan. (BP 2017; Renewable Energy World 2017).

In its publication “World Energy Resources – Geothermal 2016”, the World Energy Council reveals that El Salvador plans for four tenths of the country’s energy coming from geothermal by 2020. India, on the other hand, has an ambitious goal for geothermal development by 2030. Outright, the total worldwide capacity of geothermal power is forecast to double. The World Energy Council sees that geothermal power development has been slowed down by conservative legislation and a lack of government incentives which, however, could see changes now that countries work towards decarbonizing the energy sector in order to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, but also as an effort to diversify energy production and move towards clean(er) sources of power generation. Worthwhile to note, geothermal energy production releases very small amounts of greenhouse gases, and has few impacts upon the environment, allowing for renewable energy agencies to classify it as a renewable energy source. 

Furthermore, the World Energy Council estimates that in order to survive in the 21st century, the geothermal energy sector is obliged to innovate. Despite its many advantages and many countries worldwide having access to geothermal power production, geothermal power production has historically primarily been used by countries that have lacked fossil fuel resources but have a high amount of geothermal energy resources, but also as a means to secure national energy resources as a part of a country’s energy infrastructure, and/or to diversify a country’s energy portfolio. While forecast that developing countries such as Kenya and Indonesia will tap into their abundant geothermal heat resources, advanced clean technologies and growing electrification of markets for instance in Europe will allow the geothermal energy sector to grow its capacity on developed markets as well. 

Geothermal power resources worldwide are estimated to contain 50.000 times more energy than all available oil and gas resources combined, speaking for the immense potential within the geothermal energy sector. The geothermal energy sector could theoretically provide all the energy needed worldwide. In addition to being an environmentally friendly, renewable source of energy worldwide, unlike fossil-fuels such as coal, gas, and oil, advanced geothermal technologies are becoming cost-efficient. Geothermal energy is nor dependent on weather conditions or low in capacity – on the contrary. As of today, depending upon country and region, both access to funding and legislation are potential obstacles in terms of the geothermal energy sector to reach its full potential. (IRENA 2017).

Learn more about the commercial production of geothermal energy by watching U.S. Department of Energy ́s video “Energy 101: Geothermal Energy”:

You may also want to read one of my previous articles: Why Is The Worldwide Marine Energy Market In Its Infancy?  

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe toYritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles delivered personally to you.

Why Is The Worldwide Marine Energy Market In Its Infancy?

Our world’s oceans, covering more than 70% of the Earth’s total surface, are an immense source of energy. Despite the fact that the marine ecosystem and environment today are hardly utilized for energy creation, Mørk et al. (2010) evaluated in their study for the IPCC that our oceans and waves alone could theoretically provide double the amount of worldwide electricity supply. Nonetheless, marine hydrokinetic energy (MHK), also called ocean/tidal energy/power, in 2016 provided only about 536 MW of operating energy capacity worldwide. (EMEC Orkney 2017; REN21 2017; World Energy Council 2016).

In its infancy in terms of commercial energy production, marine energy resources are infinite, yet costs are still high and the financial environment and investments into marine energy have been challenging. Nevertheless, significant amounts of research and development projects are now taking place in many countries, with fresh implementations of marine energy devices recently. Majority of these R&D projects target tidal streams and waves, and a smaller proportion on thermal and salinity gradients. According to REN21, Canada, Chile, the Republic of Korea, the United States and a number of countries in Europe now lead projects related to marine energy. 

Along with other renewable energy sources, marine energy could contribute to the diversification of the global energy mix while supporting countries in climate change mitigation and being one option for meeting the world ́s continuously growing energy demand. Moreover, marine energy could have socio-economic benefits in terms of new job creation. The World Energy Council forecasts that if the energy production within the marine energy sector grows to 748 GW by 2050, this would create around 160.000 new jobs by 2030.

The European Commission ́s Maritime Forum, the Ocean Energy Forum, states that ocean energy is the next generation of renewables with the capability of creating a completely new industrial manufacturing sector and a notable export market. The Ocean Energy Forum also forecasts that by 2050, ocean energy could meet 10% of Europe’s electricity demand with a deployment of 100 GW ocean energy on the continent. Government incentives and policies have a significant role in supporting ocean energy projects. Public opinion in Europe has been in favor of ocean energy research and development, and implementation. 

An important socio-economic consideration with ocean energy, similar to wind energy, is energy security since variability is high on an annual and seasonal level, or in some cases, even on an hourly level. Forecasting is currently possible to about one week ahead. According to The World Energy Council, under certain circumstances, ocean energy grids could face enormous pressure and coincide with alternative renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, with a possibility of leading to electricity blackouts if not resolved through energy storage systems. 

Moreover, possible environmental impacts of ocean energy include marine species colliding/interacting with ocean energy devices such as turbines and OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion). Furthermore, taking into consideration that underwater species communicate through sound, noise disturbance from ocean energy devices could have an impact on the behavior of marine species. Another potential risk on the marine environment could be the impact of ocean energy devices on the natural movement of water. Feasible advantages from ocean energy devices could include improved ecological and environmental water quality, reduced air and water pollution, or even attracting marine species as a safe haven and an artificial habitat. 

According to IRENA, cyclical constellations and natural phenomena allow for a high proportion of predictability for tidal range technologies, since marine energy production does not rely upon weather conditions. Despite current challenges, such as high upfront costs and possible impacts upon the environment, many countries worldwide are currently developing technologies aiming at commercializing tidal energy prototypes and sites. One of the benefits of tidal energy is its minimal impact on landscapes, as opposed to for instance wind turbines that despite their low greenhouse gas emission impact on the environment seem to create some opposition amongst population when it comes to their visual impact. A real breakthrough in marine or tidal energy commercialization is currently still facing many challenges, including the fact that costs would have to come down quite significantly in order to make this kind of energy production competitive in comparison with other (renewable) energy sources. Taking into consideration the rapid development within for instance the solar PV energy sector within less than two decades, it is not impossible at all that the marine energy market may experience a breakthrough in the upcoming decade(s). What do you think?  

Learn more by watching U.S. Department of Energy ́s video “Energy 101: Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy”:

Access one of my previous articles here: What is The Current State of The Worldwide Solar Energy Market?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Idaho National Laboratory

What is The Current State of The Worldwide Solar Energy Market?

Have you ever considered why, in 2019, around 13% of the world population lacks access to electricity? With today’s global population of approximately 7,6 billion this signifies that almost one billion human beings currently live without access to electricity. Majority of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and several hundred million people for instance in India still lack access to electricity. This in a world that could theoretically be completely powered through renewable sources of energy, such as solar power. Regardless of the high amount of world population that currently lacks access to electricity, significant progress has been made within the past few years alone. 

Perhaps it is not only a coincidence that population with no access to electricity live in warm, tropical climates. In colder climates, life and survival without access to energy, electricity, heat and power would make life much more challenging. However, if we go back in recent history, it has not been very long that our own ancestors and relatives lived without electricity and heating, even in cold climates. For instance my father, who was born in 1946, spent his childhood living in a home in Finnish Lapland (north of the Arctic Circle) without electricity. Less than a century ago – to be precise, soon 74 years. Since I am writing this article near father ́s day, which is always being celebrated on the 2nd Sunday in November in Finland, I would like to take the opportunity to wish my father and all other fathers a happy father’s day! 

Today, it is hard to imagine a life in Finland without electricity and heating. Perhaps the harsh life conditions have shaped our ancestors and older generations and given them the resilience that many people seem to lack today. Many people today are really spoiled. The thought about survival without electricity and heating in an Arctic country like Finland appears quite distant, or even impossible. Post World War II, Finland was a poor country, recovering and building a modern welfare society which today is one of the leading countries worldwide in terms of democracy, education, healthcare, equality, human rights, and freedom of speech – a welfare nation. Modernization of a society, including providing people access to electricity is a transformation that can take place rapidly, especially with renewable options such as solar energy that has become the cheapest source of energy in many countries. 

Of all energy sources, solar PV has the fourth lowest amount of greenhouse gas emissions according to the IPCC and IHA: 48 gCO2 equivalent per kWh. That is more than 10 times less than the equivalent from natural gas, and more than 17 times less than the equivalent from coal as a source of energy. According to the World Energy Council, government policies (and legislation) have had an impact on the world ́s most mature solar energy markets Australia, Europe, and the United States. However, costs for solar power are falling rapidly. The REN21 forecasts in its Renewables Global Futures Report that by 2050, the whole world could be 100% powered through renewable sources of energy, including solar power. Global installed capacity for solar-powered electricity has grown rapidly from basically zero GW in 2005 to more than 480 GW of installed capacity today, with a market increase of almost 50% in 2016 alone. Currently, solar PV provides the Earth with around four per cent (4%) of total electricity, with a capacity of more than 480 GW by the end of 2018 (one gigawatt equals one billion (1,000,000,000,000) watts). 

With most renewable energy being installed in developing countries, primarily in China, the whole renewable energy sector today employs at least 9.8 million people. The vast majority, 62%, of these jobs are in the biofuels and solar sectors, and mainly in Asia. In 2018, all renewable energy sources combined provided an estimated 29% of total global electricity. According to the IEA and IRENA, by 2023 renewables combined (renewables refer to hydropower, solar, wind, biomass, marine and geothermal energy, EXCLUDING nuclear energy!), are expected to supply 12.4% of overall worldwide energy demand. 

The leading countries in terms of total solar PV capacity in 2016 were China, Japan, Germany, United States, and Italy. Policy makers in almost all countries worldwide now support renewable energy development, with COP22 leaders from 48 developing countries dedicated to achieving 100% renewable energy in their nations. In terms of solar PV capacity additions in 2016, China led the world market with a 46% share, followed by the United States (20%), Japan (11.5%), India (5.5%), United Kingdom (2.7%), Germany (2.0%), Republic of Korea (1.1%), Australia (1.1%), Philippines (1.0%), Chile (1.0%), and the rest of the world combined (8%). Reasons for deployment of solar power in countries worldwide vary from lack of fossil fuel resources, energy policies targeting to diversify a country’s energy portfolio, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. (REN21 2017).

Although oil and gas prices have been in decline, investments from a number of stakeholders, including corporations and financial institutions along with fossil fuel producers and oil exporting countries within the renewable and solar power sector continue to grow. Solar power is even being utilized for oil production. According to the World Energy Council and the IEA, in 2015, total investment in the energy sector worldwide was USD 1.8 trillion, USD 161 billion of which was invested in solar power alone. 

Today, consumers in many countries have the opportunity to participate in their own solar energy production by buying or renting solar panels. Personally, I have rented a solar panel at the rooftop of the Helsinki Expo and Convention Center, with my name on it. The solar energy produced with this one solar panel will be reduced from my upcoming electricity invoices. As a matter of fact, my personal household energy consumption is now covered 100% through renewable sources: hydropower, solar energy, and wind energy. It is expected that a legislative renewal within the energy market sector in Finland will see renewable energy prices fall in the near future. Until then, I am even willing to pay a bit extra for my energy consumption, as long as it has a positive impact on the environment through causing less pollution. I can save the same amount of money through smarter consumption choices.   

Learn more about the topic by watching Bloomberg ́s video “The Way We Get Power Is About to Change Forever”:

What are your thoughts about the rapid developments within the local/worldwide energy market? How about solar energy? I would be pleased to read your comments/thoughts and learn about your experiences. 

You may want to read one of my previous articles: What Makes Wind Energy The Fastest Growing Renewable Source of Electricity Worldwide?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest posts.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Paulo Valdivieso

What Makes Wind Energy The Fastest Growing Renewable Source of Electricity Worldwide?

Similar to hydropower, which is energy derived from water, wind energy has been utilized for thousands of years, merely with less advanced technologies than the modern inventions we have today. From the Nile River to China, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, wind as a source of energy was seized until oil and energy prices dropped. It was not until the 1970’s oil crisis that alternative sources of energy, such as wind, started to awaken new interest worldwide. 

Today, according to Wind Energy Foundation, wind energy is the fastest growing source of electricity worldwide, and it is a fossil-free, renewable source of energy. According to the IPCC and IHA, onshore wind energy has the lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of all energy sources, with only 11 gCO2/kWh. To understand the difference, coal has 820 gCO2/kWh. In terms of climate change mitigation, it is essential to drastically reduce the amount of coal energy and seek less polluting alternatives, including wind energy. 

In 2018, 51.3 GW of new wind was installed worldwide, as stated in GWEC ́s Global Wind Report 2018. Since 2014, more than 50 GW of new wind energy has been installed per annum. Worldwide, current onshore wind power capacity with a total of 591 GW (one gigawatt equals one billion watts) covers seven per cent (7%) of total power generation capacity, while its actual total global power generation covered four per cent (4%) in 2015. The leading wind power producing country worldwide today is China with over 200 GW installed capacity, followed by the USA, Germany, India, and Brazil. The top five countries combined have a 75% share of the total worldwide wind energy market. Total installed capacity onshore by world region is largest in the Asia-Pacific, followed by Europe, the Americas, and Africa/The Middle East. Offshore capacity is currently highest in Europe. 

According to the World Energy Council, current policy plans could allow for wind power capacity to grow from roughly 487 GW in 2016 to 977 GW by 2030. In China alone, wind power could provide 26% of all electricity by 2030. With the vast majority of wind power turbines onshore, worldwide investments in the sector are booming and hit USD 109.6 billion already in 2015. In many countries today, onshore wind is the most inexpensive source of renewable energy, with costs falling rapidly and significantly. 

With a fast and credible growth track record, the wind power industry is regarded as a low-risk investment, with financial institutions increasingly much competing about the funding of wind projects. Possible risks to wind project investments include policy uncertainty and long operational lifetimes. In terms of rapidly growing power demand and distribution challenges, wind is a cost-effective option according to GWEC. The market outlook up to 2023 projects an average annual increase of 2,7 per cent in the wind energy market.  

Both IRENA, GWEC, and the World Energy Council admit that there are multiple benefits from a growing renewable energy, including wind power, sector. Not only do renewable energy sources support socio-economic growth through the generation of new jobs that accelerates economic growth, but also supports the decarbonization of the global energy sector, thus leading to less pollution and improved environmental and human well-being. Investments and growth in the renewable energy sector overall are estimated to create millions of new jobs worldwide. 

As defined by the World Energy Council and the Global Wind Energy Council, wind power is leading the energy market in its transition away from fossil fuels on both performance, reliability and costs. Despite some of its harms on the environment and ecological impacts, such as wildlife colliding with wind turbines and possible public health concerns through noise and visual impacts on people, wind power is known to be an environmentally friendly source of renewable energy, with a small land footprint, low water requirements and low greenhouse gas emissions. Denmark remains the world’s leading country in terms of integration, production, and R&D of wind energy. In 2018 alone, Danish wind turbines generated 40.7% of the Danish electricity consumption. Quite impressive, or what do you think? 

Your comments/thoughts are welcome! 

Learn more by watching U.S. Department of Energy ́s video “Energy 101: Wind Turbines”:

You may also want to read one of my previous articles: What is the Outlook for the Global Hydropower Sector?  

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles, delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

Hydropower by Josh Simmons on Flickr

What is The Outlook For The Global Hydropower Sector?

Hydropower, the currently largest single source of renewable energy worldwide, was first commercialized for the production of electricity in Niagara Falls in 1879, although human beings have been utilizing more primitive versions of hydropower for centuries or even thousands of years. The earliest hydropower usage can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who used simple water wheels in agricultural processes. Today, 15,9% of all renewable electricity is generated through hydropower production, (IHA 2019). 

For instance in Finland, the role of hydropower is still today quite remarkable in terms of electricity production. According to Finnish Energy, at its peak in the 1960 ́s, hydropower accounted for 90% of all electricity generation in the country. Today, hydropower contributes to four per cent (4%) of Finland ́s total energy mix, and annually between 10-15% of all electricity production, down from its impressive numbers in the middle of the 20th century. (Finnish Energy 2019).

Despite being a renewable source of energy, energy authorities and companies admit to the environmental problems caused by dams and hydropower plants. Not only do dams and hydropower plants change natural water systems, but also prevent (fish) species in these water bodies from wandering. The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, FANC, supports consumers and the industry in improving the sustainability of energy and electricity consumption. It has launched the EKOenergy label, which has now become the international ecolabel for energy. (Fortum 2019; FANC 2019).

What comes to the benefits of hydropower, the IHA identifies the following key components: hydropower is an affordable and reliable source of energy which enables and supports other renewables, it offers protection from floods and drought, provides responsible management of freshwater, is socioeconomically important, helps avoid emissions and pollutants, improves infrastructure and waterways, increases cooperation between countries, leads to community investments in rural areas, and enhances both recreational activities and tourism. Of all energy sources, hydropower has the second lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt hour. 

In terms of hydropower costs, the International Renewable Energy Agency states that on average, electricity generated through the use of hydropower is inexpensive, with significant technical potential remaining untapped as of today. One of the obstacles in terms of fully utilizing the potential of hydropower worldwide, according to IRENA, is the absence of data in terms of these technologies. Despite currently being the most widely used renewable source of energy worldwide with a total market share of almost 16% in the global energy mix, IRENA estimates that the usage of hydropower is far from having reached its full potential on a global scale, although for instance Norway gets more than 99% of its electricity from hydropower. 

The World Energy Council reveals that Asia as a continent has the most significant untapped potential in terms of hydropower, while currently much of the new development is focused in China (26% of the worldwide installed capacity in 2015), Latin America and the African continent. According to the World Energy Council, the average annual growth rate of hydropower worldwide between 2005 and 2015 was almost four per cent (4%). With the share of other renewable energy sources increasing, hydropower now accounts for 71% of all renewable electricity worldwide, a share that has fallen by at least 10% within a few years time only. The countries with the fastest growing new installed hydropower capacity worldwide are currently China, Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey and Angola. One major benefit of hydropower is its flexibility and the capacity to store energy even up to several months. 

In the 2019 Hydropower Status Report the International Hydropower Association insists that hydropower, when correctly and sustainably managed, provides a number of benefits in a world faced with complex problems such as expeditious population growth in addition to energy and water challenges. The IHA identifies following developments and key trends in the worldwide hydropower sector:

  1. Risk management initiatives established in terms of hydropower
  2. Co-operative projects within the renewable sector to secure grid stability
  3. Pump storage serves global requirements for energy storage
  4. Hydropower interconnected to global markets
  5. Modernisation of available assets within the hydropower sector
  6. Advanced reporting mechanisms are now at hand
  7. Sustainability performance reporting (The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol) is being implemented worldwide
  8. Climate resilience acknowledged and emphasized by financing institutions

Furthermore, the IHA recognizes climate change mitigation, including the Paris Agreement and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, being at the center for strategic sustainable development. In terms of environmental protection, both the World Energy Council and the International Hydropower Association acknowledge the availability and deployment of modern technologies that have been designed to minimize the potential harms caused to both water sources and its inhabitants through the hydropower sector. For instance in Uruguay alone, almost 100% of the country’s electricity is produced from hydropower and other renewable resources of energy.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences about hydropower? You are more than welcome to share your thoughts by commenting on this article. You may also want to read one of my previous articles: How Safe is The Production of Nuclear Energy?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environmental posts alone @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to my newsletter at Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles/news delivered personally to you.